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What are the Different Types of Retinopathy Surgery?

By Rebecca Harkin
Updated May 17, 2024
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Vitrectomy, membranectomy, pneumopexy, photocoagulation, cryopexy, and scleral buckling are different types of retinopathy surgeries. The retina is the part of the eye which transforms light into neural signals and passes it on to the brain. Any type of non-flammatory retinal damage is classified as retinopathy, and includes a detached retina, diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, or an epiretinal membrane. Causes include genetic defect, aging, or ocular symptoms of disease.

A vitrectomy and membranectomy are used to treat an epiretinal membrane, which is a vision-obstruction membrane located adjacent to the retina, and is usually produced by an immune response. During both of these procedures, small cuts are made in the sclera, or surface of the eye, and some of the jelly-like filling of the eye, called vitreous, is removed to provide access to the epiretinal membrane. Vitrectomy can also be combined with pneumopexy to treat a detached retina. In this retinopathy surgery a vitrectomy is performed, followed by pneumopexy, or a procedure which replaces the extracted vitreous with a gas in order to refill the eye and force the detached retina back into position. The eye eventually replaces the gas with vitreous.

Photocoagulation is a retinopathy surgery which uses lasers to treat problems such as diabetic retinopathy, macular degeneration, retina tears, and detached retinas. During this procedure, an ophthalmoscope, or an instrument which allows the surgeon to see inside the eye, is used to direct a laser beam onto the retina surface to burn the retina and create scar tissue to repair retinal tears or secure a detached retina. The laser can also burn or destroy abnormal blood vessels caused by macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy. Cryopexy is a retinopathy surgery similar to photocoagulation, which uses a freezing probe to heal retinal tears, detached retina, and vascular problems instead of a laser. Freezing the area surrounding the retinal tear or detached retina creates scar tissue to seal the tear or reattach the retina, and can also destroy excessive or abnormal growth of blood vessels in the retina.

A severe detached retina will sometimes require the use of a scleral buckle in addition to cryopexy or photocoagulation retinopathy surgery. A scleral buckle is a band made from silicone, rubber, or plastic which encircles the sclera, causing the eye to buckle inward, relieving the tension on the detached retina. Cryopexy or photocoagulation can then be used to reattach the retina. The buckle is typically left on the eye even after the detached retina heals.

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